The Cairn

I wrote this two years ago after my father died. That trauma in many ways, it's what led me to open Magnolia + Fig and set me on a path over the course of those two years to some of the most radical and transformative healing of my life.... 

This is not all all everything I want to say, but the natural world and strange coincidence and things that can't be explained, has always been a way for me to find meaning in the world and make sense of existence. 

My father died after 15 years of being estranged from him. He died alone from a heart attack. He had been in a nursing home following two leg amputations from untreated diabetes he told no one about. I went to Arizona to make sense of this because it just didn't make sense. 

The night I met with my uncle again after 25 years was one of the most difficult days of my life. We chatted about everything, about my dad, my grandparents, the heartbreak of my grandmother losing her granddaughter by not having me around, etc. I lost not just my dad when he left the final time. I lost the presence of my grandmother who was my very first memory. I was so confused after I was told about my biological father when I was 11, but Alan and his parents always considered me their daughter/granddaughter. He just couldn’t do it. He was a traumatized and heartbroken person who distanced of himself from everyone that ever cared about him because he felt like that’s what he needed to do for them. To save them from what he thought he was. He got it wrong. He wasn’t his addiction. He had an addiction. He got it wrong. He was a kind and gentle man who still managed to be kind and gentle despite surviving the criticism of his father. He was funny, loving, and tender. He loved fishing. He loved nature and his home in Northern California. His daughter, his nieces and nephews loved him so. His mother and even his brother, loved him so. He was a strong young man who survived the jungles and bloody war of Vietnam. He retrieved the remains of others like him. How wouldn’t you have trauma coming back into the world after that? He married someone who also loved him so and continued to love him long after they split. He was a good man. He was a loved man. He loved others. He was just too fearful to be obligated to anything and anyone. He was scared of being a father. I’m sure he was scared of how he would be recieved by me, because I wasn’t his child by blood. He didn’t not love me. I was his daughter. I loved him. It wouldn’t have mattered how much time would have passed. If the 13 years had passed since I last saw him and he called to say he was sick and had no one. I would have gone. The biggest thing from all of this that it's taken me nearly 35 years to realize is that you can't expect people in your life to love you how you need to be loved because no one can do that for you, except you. You just have to have faith that they do love you and feel secure in that. I am still struggling with how one is supposed to find peace in that. 

I have realized a lot over the past year and a half through acupuncture training that a lot of the way I walk around this world is due to loss. Loss of my dad. Loss of my biological father I never knew. Confusion and loss of feeling loved and safe. Everything really started to domino after the loss of my maternal grandmother, the one stable person in my life. I have spent an entire lifetime building up and cobbling together a life up around loss and trying to compensate for it. I have to be hyper-diligent, have narrow and difficult parameters of expectations for myself, and I have to make everyone love me because I just might lose everyone and everything. When things don’t work out, I want to just burn everything down.

The night we met with my uncle, I was woken up by something in our room. My husband was there but there was something else there, I'm not sure what, it was 4am. It was raining hard, in the desert, where it hardly ever rains. When it stopped, everything outside at San Xavier del Bac felt clean and new. More alive. I felt cleansed and new.

I had a dream 3 or 4 years ago. In it, Jim was there and we were in a beautiful forest looking out at a vista with red rocks and so many colors of reds, pinks, golds, greens. I didn't understand where we were in the dream or why we were there. In the dream, I was just told by someone or something there we were in "New Mexico" (Arizona was once NM) and that I was there to heal. That everything would be new and that things that once troubled me and the grief that I have built my life up around would wash away. That I had to do it if I wanted to be a healer. I was shown moments from the future and everything would be happier. I didn’t fully understand the dream then. It was spiritual. It was profound. It was beautiful. I only remember it because of how vivid and real it all seemed.

Yesterday we spent the day driving and hiking around Sedona. We stopped to hike at Cathedral Rock. I didn’t have proper shoes. I did it anyway. When we got to a vista I turned and looked and realized that what I was looking at was the landscape from my dream. I sat down under this Juniper tree. I cried, and cried. I asked “Why?” aloud over and over again just like I have before through so much loss in my life. “Why did this happen to me?” “Why did I lose this person?” “Why.. Why.. Why?” It always cuts into very deep pain and incompletion. This time. It was different. I was asking a primordial “Why?” The “Why?” that really has no answer. It didn’t hurt. It couldn’t touch me. It didn’t come from a place of incompleteness. There was no reason to ask why anymore because the most terrible things that will ever happen to me have already happened. This “why” was out of wholeness it was from a place of understanding there’s no answer and I felt completely supported by my surroundings. I sat under that juniper tree for a while. I built a cairn under the tree for me. I built it for my dad. I built it for my mom. I built it for every broken person I’ve ever come across. For all of this. For everything. 

It turns out Juniper is a tree of purification, peace, and love. My wedding ring is of Juniper branches all of which my marriage means to me. It also turns out Juniper is a tree that can heal something in Native American cultures called “Ghost Sickness.” A residue from unprocessed trauma around grief and loss. It heals depression and the despondent.
When I got off the train from the airport this morning, it had rained. The air was fresh. Everything was new. It was spring and the clouds inside and out felt like they had lifted. I walked up to my house, I paused outside, I walked inside, and everything felt bright and new.


darcy stockton